LONDON - King Richard III was a dwarf, according to a medical diagnosis that has outraged defenders of the monarch.
"The combination of slow growth and short stature, preceded by a difficult breech birth . . . and intimations of physical weakness and sexual impotence . . . suggest idiopathic pituitary dwarfism," Dr. Jacob Van der Werff ten Bosch said in an editorial published today in the medical journal Lancet.
Balderdash, say Richard's partisans.
"Everyone knows Shakespeare's Richard III, but not everyone knows the historical evidence," said Jack Leslau, a biographer of the king. "There are various medical theories that all work on the assumption that he was some sort of monster with a physical deformity."
The Lancet editorial was timed for the anniversary of Richard's death in battle Aug. 22, 1485, at Bosworth Field - where, as Shakespeare had it, the monarch offered "my kingdom for a horse!"
Van der Werff ten Bosch, a former professor of medicine, says there is no reason to take offense. "As a doctor I would not think it's ridiculing a king to call him a dwarf. It's simply a medical diagnosis," he said.